Sierra Leone ows its name to the portuguese Pedro de Sintra, first european to map Freetown harbour in 15th century. Lion Mountains (Sierra Lyoa) referred to the mountains surrounding the harbour. It is an agricultural and mining country, in which you can find diamonds, gold, bauxite and rutile.
Archaeological finds show that Sierra Leone has been inhabited continuously for at least 2,500 years, populated by successive movements from other parts of Africa. The use of iron was introduced to Sierra Leone by the 9th century, and by 1,000 A.D. agriculture was being practiced by coastal tribes.
In 1462, Portuguese explorer Pedro de Sintra mapped the hills surrounding what is now Freetown Harbour, naming shaped formation Serra Lyoa(Portuguese for Lion Mountains). Soon after, Portuguese traders arrived at the harbour and by 1495 a fort that acted as a trading post had been built. The Portuguese were joined by the Dutch and French, all of them using Sierra Leone as a trading point for slaves. In 1562, the English joined the human trade to the new colonies in America.
In 1787 a settlement was founded in Sierra Leone by the “black poor”, African Americans given their freedom and also included other West Indian, African and Asian inhabitants of London. After establishing Granville Town, disease and hostility from the indigenous people eliminated the first group of colonists and destroyed their settlement. A second Granville Town was established by 64 remaining colonist and 1196 Black Loyalists, from Nova Scotia and founded the second Colony of Sierra Leone and the settlement of Freetown on March 11th 1792. In the 1790s, the Settlers voted for the first time in elections, as did women. Some of the Settlers revolted in 1799. The revolt was only put down by the arrival of over 500 Jamaican Maroons, who also arrived via Nova Scotia. In 1800, Jamaican Maroons from Trelawny Town, Jamaica were settled via Nova Scotia.
Beginning in 1808, thousands of formerly enslaved Africans were liberated in Freetown. Most of these Liberated Africans or ‘Recaptives’ chose to remain in Sierra Leone. During the 19th century many black Americans immigrated and settled in Freetown creating a new ethnicity called the Krio.
In the early 20th century, Freetown served as the residence of the British governor who also ruled the Gold Coast (now Ghana) and the Gambiasettlements. Sierra Leone also served as the educational centre of British West Africa.One notable event in 1935 was the granting of a monopoly on mineral mining to the Sierra Leone Selection Trust run by De Beers, which was scheduled to last 98 years.
In 1924, Sierra Leone was divided into a Colony and a Protectorate, with separate and different political systems constitutionally defined for each. Antagonism between the two entities escalated to a heated debate in 1947, when proposals were introduced to provide for a single political system for both the Colony and the Protectorate. Most of the proposals came from the Protectorate. The Krio, led by Isaac Wallace-Johnson, opposed the proposals, the main effect of which would have been to diminish their political power. It was due to the astute politics of Sir Milton Margai that the educated Protectorate elite was won over to join forces with the paramount chiefs in the face of Krio intransigence. Later, Sir Milton used the same skills to win over opposition leaders and moderate Krio elements for the achievement of independence. In November 1951, Sir Milton Margaioversaw the drafting of a new constitution, which united the separate Colonial and Protectorate legislatures and—most importantly—provided a framework for decolonization. The new constitution ensured Sierra Leone a parliamentary system within the Commonwealth of Nations. In May 1957, Sierra Leone held its first parliamentary election. The SLPP, which was then the most popular political party in the colony of Sierra Leone, won the most seats in Parliament. Margai was also re-elected as Chief Minister.
On April 20th 1960, Sir Milton Margai led the twenty four members of the Sierra Leonean delegation in the negotiations for independence. On the conclusion of talks in London, Britain agreed to grant Sierra Leone Independence on April 27th 1961. Sir Milton Margai became the country’s first Prime Minister. His government was based on the rule of law and the notion of separation of powers, with multiparty political institutions and fairly viable representative structures. Upon Sir Milton’s unexpected death in 1964, Sir Albert Margai, was appointed as Prime Minister by parliament. Sir Albert resorted to increasingly authoritarian actions in response to protests and enacted several laws against the opposition.Sir Albert was opposed to the colonial legacy of allowing the country’s Paramount Chiefs executive powers, and he was seen as a threat to the existence of the ruling houses across the country. In 1967, Riots broke out in Freetown against Sir Albert’s policies; in response Margai declared a state of emergency across the country. Sir Albert was accused of corruption and of a policy of affirmative action in favor of his own Mende ethnic group. The APC won a small majority over the SLPP in a closely contested 1967 Sierra Leone general election and Siaka Stevens was sworn in as Prime Minister on April 26th 1967.
Within hours after taking office, Stevens was ousted in a bloodless military coup led by David Lansana, On March 23rd 1967, a group of senior military officers overrode this action by seizing control of the government and suspending the constitution. The group constituted itself as the National Reformation Council (NRC) Andrew Juxon-Smith as its chairman and Head of State of the country. On April 18th 1968, a group of senior military officers who called themselves the Anti-Corruption Revolutionary Movement led by Amadu Bangura overthrew the NRC junta. The ACR juntas arrested many senior NRC members. The constitution was reinstated, and power was returned to Stevens, who at last assumed the office of Prime Minister.
Stevens began efforts that would later bridge the distance between the provinces and the city. Roads and hospitals were constructed in the provinces, and Paramount Chiefs and provincial peoples became a prominent force in Freetown. Stevens’ rule grew more and more authoritarian, and his relationship with some of his ardent supporters deteriorated. In 1977, a nationwide student demonstration against the government disrupted Sierra Leone politics. However, the demonstration was quickly put down.
In 1978, the APC dominant parliament approved a new constitution making the country a one-party state. Siaka Stevens retired from politics in November 1985. Joseph Saidu Momoh followed. He was very loyal to Stevens who had appointed him to the position. Like Stevens, Momoh was also a member of the minority Limba ethnic group. Momoh was elected President as the only contesting candidate and was sworn in as Sierra Leone’s second president on November 28th 1985. A one party parliamentary election between APC members was held in May 1986. The next couple of years under the Momoh administration were characterised by corruption. After an alleged attempt to overthrow Momoh in March 1987, more than 60 senior government officials were arrested, including Vice-President Francis Minah, executed by hanging in 1989 along with 5 others.
On 29 April 29th 1992, a 25-year-old Captain Valentine Strasser led seven junior officers in the Sierra Leone army that launched a military coup, which sent president Momoh into exile in Guinea and the young soldiers established the National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) with Strasser as its chairman and Head of State of the country. The NPRC Junta immediately suspended the constitution, banned all political parties, limited freedom of speech and freedom of the press and enacted a rule-by-decree policy, in which soldiers were granted unlimited powers. In January 1996 after about four years in power, Strasser was arrested in a coup by his fellow NPRC soldiers, led by Julis Maada Bio. Strasser was immediately flown into exile. In his first public broadcast to the nation following the 1996 coup, Bio stated that his support for returning Sierra Leone to a democratically elected civilian government and his commitment to ending the Sierra Leone civil war were his motivations for the coup. Promises of a return to civilian rule were fulfilled by Bio, who handed power over to Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, of the SLPP, after the conclusion of elections in early 1996. President Kabbah took power with a great promise of ending the civil war. President Kabbah open dialogue with the RUF and invited RUF leader Foday Sankoh for peace negotiation. In May 1997, seventeen soldiers in the Sierra Leone army launched a military coup which sent President Kabbah into exile in Guinea and they established the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC). Gborie quickly went to announce the coup to a shocked nation and to alert all soldiers across the country to report for guard duty. The soldiers immediately released Koroma from prison and installed him as their chairman and Head of State. Koroma suspended the constitution, banned demonstrations, shut down all private radio stations in the country and invited the RUF to join the new junta government, with its leader Foday Sankoh as the Vice-Chairman of the new AFRC-RUF coalition junta government. Within days, Freetown was overwhelmed by the presence of the RUF combatants The Kamajors, a group of traditional fighters mostly from the Mende ethnic group under the command of deputy Defence Minister Samuel Hinga Norman, remained loyal to President Kabbah and defended the Southern part of Sierra Leone from the soldiers. After 10 months in office, the junta was overthrown by the Nigeria-led ECOMOG forces, and the democratically elected government of president Kabbah was reinstated in March 1998. In October twenty five soldiers were executed after they were convicted at a court martial in Freetown for orchestrating the 1997 coup that overthrew President Kabbah .
In October 1999, the United Nations agreed to send peacekeepers to help restore order and disarm the rebels. The situation in the country deteriorated to such an extent that British troops were deployed in Operation Palliser, and took full military action to finally defeat the rebels and restore order. The British were the catalyst for the ceasefire that ended the civil war. In August 2007, Sierra Leone held presidential and parliamentary elections. However, no presidential candidate won the 50% plus one vote majority stipulated in the constitution on the first round of voting. A runoff election was held in September 2007, and Ernest Bai Koroma, the candidate of the main opposition APC, was elected president. Recently, november 17th, 2012, President Ernest Bai Koroma was reelected for another turn.